TWO WORLDS IN WHICH WE DWELL

 

Chapter Five

  

 

Leonard McCoy’s ears still stung from the verbal assault James Kirk had launched at him upon awakening in the sickbay.  The sobriety drug had taken hold of Kirk’s system like a Mellanoid slime worm and laid him flat on his back for three full hours.  And while McCoy knew his captain needed every one of those one hundred and eighty minutes to regain his strength in order to deal efficiently with the present crisis, each one of those passing minutes had left Spock, Deevers and Uhura adrift in a very real and very dangerous unknown.  Knowing what Jim Kirk’s wishes would have been, McCoy had exercised his medical authority and made a judgment call.  Lying, he had told the ship’s acting first officer, Lt. DeSalle that – before he had gone under – the captain had issued an order that they begin the search.

At this moment the results of that search were being relayed to a still very irate James Tiberius Kirk in the ship’s briefing room number two.  As he listened to DeSalle, Kirk’s hazel eyes flicked toward his surgeon.  McCoy grimaced and shifted uncomfortably in his seat as he met the blond man’s censuring stare.  They had better find that missing shuttlecraft quickly.  Any more looks like that and he was going to end up needing resuscitation equipment!

“Let me understand this,” Kirk said, holding up a hand to stop DeSalle’s somewhat Spocklike recitation of known facts.  “While I was…indisposed….”  There was another one of those looks.  “…you requested data from the satellites orbiting Earth concerning the area of space in which the shuttlecraft disappeared?”

“And from the moon bases as well,” DeSalle replied.  “We correlated the data and

extrapolated the hypothesis that I have just presented to you.  Sir.”

This time it was Kirk who did the Spockian imitation as one honey-colored eyebrow winged toward the tousled hair brushing his forehead.  “You think the shuttlecraft fell through time?”

  “More…into time, sir.”  DeSalle swallowed.  It was obvious the usually stoic, fully grounded navigator felt somewhat out of his league. 

“Explain.”

“I’d really like to, sir.”  DeSalle paused to wet his lips.  Kirk’s hazel eyes had not aimed a look meant to kill at the young man, but the phaser was definitely set on level two.  “Sir, this is beyond anything any of us have ever seen.  The only way I can describe it is that it seems some sort of a tube opened in space and the shuttle, accidentally finding itself on a collision course, slid into it and…into another time.”

“How do you know they entered another time?” McCoy asked quietly, daring at last to speak.  “How do you know the craft didn’t simply….”  His eyes shot to Kirk.  “Disintegrate once they hit the anomaly.”

He saw it in that hazel stare.  Kirk had been way ahead of him.  “Any debris?”

“No, sir,” the navigator answered, obviously relieved.  “Nothing has been found.  Not one nut.  Not one bolt.  It’s as if the Columbus simply disappeared.”

“Were there any communications as they entered the anomaly?”

DeSalle shook his head.  “No.  There’s been nothing since Mr. Spock hailed us to say the craft had cleared the bay.  It was only a half hour flight at most, sir.”

A half hour, McCoy thought.  It seemed Spock had managed to beat his own record for how quickly he could get into trouble. 

Kirk sat with his hands clenched; a gesture McCoy recognized as one that meant he was barely maintaining control.  “Summarize.”

DeSalle straightened in his chair.  “The shuttlecraft Columbus, with a three man crew comprised of First Officer Spock, Lieutenants Deevers and Uhura, requested permission and departed the USS Enterprise docking bay at eighteen-hundred hours.  Mr. Spock signaled they were clear three minutes after departure and then, the shuttle disappeared.  The anomaly is like nothing seen before, though one scientist at Starfleet suggested the readings are similar in kind to those recorded by the Enterprise when they were in Sector 90.4.”  DeSalle paused.  He looked at Kirk expectantly.  “I attempted to reference the information concerning that sector, sir, but it was classified and restricted.”

McCoy had felt the same jolt as the captain when he heard the coordinates.  That was the sector of space occupied by the Guardian of Forever.

Kirk shot McCoy a glance and then replied, “I have authorized access, Lieutenant.”  In answer to the question in the acting science officer’s eyes, he added, “The information is on a need-to-know basis.  If it becomes pertinent to the current situation, then I will have to decide whether or not to risk Starfleet’s ire.”  Kirk leaned his chin on his hand.  “Continue summation.”

  DeSalle did.  “It appears that the window of time during which the anomaly operated was only a few minutes.  The readings are confused and hard to pin down, but it winked into existence and winked out.  There were residual readings – something like aftershocks –  for approximately one Earth standard hour.  Then, it was gone as if it had never been.”  The navigator shook his head.  “Those are the facts, sir,” he ended apologetically.

“Speculation?”

“Not enough facts, sir.  There is nothing to compare the phenomenon to.  No other events of a similar type…at least on record.”

DeSalle left it hanging in the air.  Except this mysterious 90.4 reference.

Kirk nodded.  After a moment he said, “Thank you, Mr. DeSalle.  You may return to your post.”  He looked at the other crewmembers around the table, which included a good portion of the standard bridge compliment.  “The same goes for the rest of you.  DeSalle, chart and execute a course back to Earth – at Warp 10 if necessary.  I want to know what happened to my people!” 

“Sir?” DeSalle asked.  “What about the current mission and the survey team?”

“They’ll be going back with us.  We still don’t know what happened in engineering.  I haven’t forgotten about that in the light of this new…development”  Kirk looked at the team around the table.  “I know none of us have.  No one leaves this ship until I find out what happened and why those men in engineering died.”  The captain glanced at the chronometer.  “There will be a briefing concerning that in one hour.  Until that time… dismissed!”

With nods and quiet ‘aye aye, sirs’ those in the briefing room filed out – with the exception of the captain and Leonard McCoy.

“Jim,” McCoy said, “I know that look.  You can’t possibly blame yourself for what happened to the shuttle.  Spock and Uhura were traveling to Earth, for goodness sake!  You had no reason to suspect anything might go wrong.”

“Damn it, Bones!  I could have waited.  This assignment we’re on is a milk run.  If I had waited, we would have known immediately that they went missing and been there to observe the anomaly as it happened.”  Kirk sighed and rubbed his eyes.  “And who knows, maybe this other disaster could have been averted to.”

“You think they’re tied together?”

His friend looked at him.  “No, not really,” he admitted grimly. 

“Well, then, this is about the shuttle, isn’t it?  You know Spock’s more than competent….”  The doctor paused.  “Don’t tell him that I said that, but he is.  You know it.  I know it.  If anything could have been done to avoid…whatever happened, he would have done it.”  McCoy fell silent for a time.  “Do you really think they went back in time?  Did DeSalle have any idea where or when they might have ended?”  McCoy had come to the briefing a few minutes late and so not heard the acting science officer’s complete report.  He shuddered with the memory of their last trip into time together – the one involving the restricted Guardian – when his captain had been forced to allow a woman he had come to love to die.

Kirk shook his head.  His eyes reflected that fear as well.  “They were headed for the United States of Africa.  A projection of the shuttle’s speed and trajectory at the moment of disappearance indicates it most likely would have landed somewhere on the North American continent instead.”

“Somewhere?”

Kirk sighed and leaned his head in his hands.  “Nothing more specific, Bones.” 

McCoy watched his captain for several seconds, and then the mediscanner was in his hand and whirling.  The conscientious surgeon braced himself for the expected explosion.

“Bones, put that damn thing away!  I’m fine.”

“You’re stress levels don’t say you are fine.

“Well, I am!  Consider that piece of equipment faulty,” Jim snapped.  Then he relented with a smile.  “And, Bones, consider that an order.”

McCoy read the instrument, then he snapped it off.  With a nod of his head, he said simply, “I know, I’m worried about Spock and Uhura too.”

Kirk rose to his feet.  “I’ll be on the bridge,” he said, and marched from the room.

Leonard McCoy remained behind in the briefing room, lost in his thoughts.  It amazed him to this day how the Vulcan had gotten under his skin.  For the first few months of their five year mission, he had all but despised the cold, acerbic green-blooded bastard.  But that was due to a medical error in judgment.  A surgeon never truly knew a patient until he went beneath the skin; beneath the surface.  He had first seen the great wall of Vulcan control crack when Spock had connected mentally to Simon Van Gelder.  Spock had had to let his guard down to do so, and something of the inner man had been revealed.  Then, of course, there had been the trip to Omicron Ceti III and Leila Kalomi….  McCoy could think of at least a dozen other times that the Vulcan had revealed something of his human side, however unwilling – or unwittingly.   In the end, McCoy’s animosity had turned to curiosity, and then ripened into respect.  And now – though it was damned hard to admit it – he considered Spock a genuine friend.

Maybe pigs could fly after all!

McCoy was chuckling to himself when he suddenly became aware of feeling uncomfortable; as if he were being watched.  He frowned, glanced around the room, and shook it off.  His fingers went to the bridge of his nose and he pinched hard, and then rubbed his forehead.  If he ran the mediscanner over himself he was sure his stress levels would rival, if not outpace Jim Kirk’s.  It was so damned unfair.  Even when they got back to Earth, what could they do?  There was nothing.

Nothing at all but prepare to mourn.

“Doctor McCoy.”  A soft voice spoke from somewhere close behind him.  “Doctor Leonard McCoy?”

He pivoted swiftly and peered into the shadows that cloaked the rear portion of the room.  The automatic lights had softened with the other crewmember’s departure and his motionless state.  They sprang to life again even as McCoy did.

“Who is it?  What?” he asked as he leapt up.

For a split second – almost like one of those visions a person has at twilight, when they think they see a black cat darting across their path or the face of some ghostlike creature at the window – he saw someone.  It was a wraith-thin form, seemingly female, though he wasn’t sure just how he knew that.  Pale.  Biped, but definitely alien.

And then it was gone.

McCoy crossed to where he had seen it.  There was nothing there, of course.  Just as he decided he had better run that scan of his cortisol levels, he heard the soft voice again.  This time, coming from near the door.

“I would speak with you, Leonard McCoy.  In your quarters.”

By the time he turned, there was nothing to see but empty space.

McCoy hesitated for a moment, wondering if this was the first sign that he was going space happy.  Then he shrugged.  If he was, he’d have to be the one to diagnose it and he could just pretend it didn’t exist. 

 

Daniel Boone’s long lanky form was slung in the tall chair facing his hearth.  He and Tupper had made their run to New Salem in record time.  He had been looking forward to the big grin on Rebecca’s face when he snuck up behind her and wrapped his arms about her waist and gave her a squeeze.  Instead, when he made his appearance, his red-headed wife had burst into tears.  Following close behind him, his old friend Tupper had tipped his cap and made himself scarce.  Dan had held his wife for a minute or two, listening to her incoherent snuffling, and then taken her and sat her down in her rocking chair and waited while she wiped her eyes and blew her nose.  Then he had asked her to tell him what was wrong.

Outside the cabin windows the light was dying.  He and Tupper had come back near supper time.  Becky told him, in halting words, that Israel and Mingo had been due back nearly twenty-four hours before, and she had not heard one word from them.  They had simply disappeared.  Dan hadn’t let her know it, but her words struck fear in his heart.  His wife didn’t know what he knew.  It was another reason he and Tupper had come home early.

The Shawnee were rumored to be on the warpath.

 They had tangled with the Shawnee before.  A lot of times.  They were used to the ones they knew, but there were a new pair in the area now who promised trouble; Unemake, a warrior turned medicine man, and the new war chief he served who went by the name of Rain of Stars.  The Shawnee war chief already had a reputation for being ruthless.  Unemake was his shadow.  Both were reputed to be English educated, though as far as Dan knew, the medicine man was full-blooded.  Rumor said Rain of Stars was not.  That he was ‘different’.  Dan didn’t know exactly what to make of that.  The newcomer could be a renegade from another tribe, say a Creek leading the Shawnee, or maybe he was of mixed parentage.

After all, there were quite a few who said Mingo was ‘different’ too.

He and Tupper had been on their way home when they had run into some soldiers who told them about the Shawnee and their plans.  Dan had intended to surprise Becky, sweep her off her feet, and then pack her and the two young’uns up and deposit them inside the fort where they would be safe.  Then he was going to go looking for Mingo.  It was his hope that they could do some scouting and quickly confirm or deny what the soldiers said.  Jemima, he found, was already in the fort, staying with a friend’s family for a few days.  Israel, as Becky told him, was with Mingo.

From what his wife said, the pair had been headed toward Shawnee territory.

“Dan?  What are we going to do?” Becky asked him, her voice trembling.  She was seated in the chair opposite him; her hands knitted together nervously in her lap.

He shifted and met her frightened gaze.  “You’re goin’ to the fort.”

“Dan, no!”

“Rebecca, yes.”  His tone was soft, but firm.  “I can’t be worryin’ about Is’rul and you at one and the same time.  Not and keep my wits about me.”  He watched his wife gnaw her lip.  They had had this conversation many, many times before.  A slight quirk lifted one corner of the frontiersman’s mouth.  Usually she won.

But not tonight.

“There are times…”  Becky began, halted, and went on.  “There are times that I loathe being a woman!  I feel so…helpless.”

Dan rose from his chair and went to put his arm around her shoulders.  After planting a kiss on her copper hair, he said, “Mrs. Boone, you are anythin’ but.   It ain’t such a big thing to knock heads together, or let bullets fly.  Action takes a man’s mind off his worries.”  He brushed her cheek with his fingers.  “A woman’s courage is the quiet kind; long and endurin’.”  Dan laughed.  “Most men’d break under the trouble a woman can take faster than you could say Jack Robinson.”

“I can say it pretty fast,” she replied, a slight grin forming in spite of her mother’s fears.  Becky looked up at him and asked earnestly, “Do you think Israel is all right?”

“He’s with Mingo, Becky.  Ain’t no man I trust more.  You know that.”

“I know, Dan, but Mingo has a way of….” She winced, not wanting to appear insulting.

“Of gettin’ into trouble?”  Dan laughed.  “Why, don’t you know?  That’s only when he’s with me.”

“Dan – ”  His wife paused.  It seemed as if she was considering what she had been about to say.  But that wasn’t it.  Becky had heard something.

“Dan, someone is outside.”

He glanced toward the door.  “It’s most likely Tupper returnin’.”

She shook her head.  “I hear two voices.”

As Dan turned, the door opened and a Cherokee warrior stepped across the threshold.  The man looked winded and weary.  His clothes were mud-flecked and there were fresh knife cuts healing on his bare arms.  It took the frontiersman a moment, but then he recognized him.  He was a friend of Mingo’s. 

 “Silver Fox?  What’s happened – ”

The native stated without preamble.  “I have news of your son, and of Cara-Mingo.  The son of Talota is in grave danger.”

 

Leonard McCoy hesitated outside the door to his quarters, puzzled.  How the heck was he to know if he was going space happy?  If he opened the door and saw the strange woman, how could he tell if she was really real?  Of course, he could run his mediscanner over her, but if he was loopy then wouldn’t he just imagine the readings were the ones he wanted?

Spock would have loved a chance to illuminate him on that point.  Of course, the Vulcan would have politely told him he already knew the answer: McCoy had been loopy all along.

The surgeon sighed.  There were about three shots of brandy left.  He was going to down them all and go to bed.

Making up his mind, McCoy moved forward and the automatic doors whooshed open as they recognized him.  He stepped into the room and stopped, looking around.  When he saw nothing, he decided Spock would have been right.

Maybe he’d be saner by the time the next simulated day dawned on the starship.

Crossing to the unit that served as a liquor cabinet, the weary surgeon removed the brandy bottle and placed it on the table where he did his out of office work.  Then he walked into the bathroom and shed his clothes.  A brief sonic shower awakened him as well as alleviating his morose feelings.  He decided, as he drew on a soft, deep blue robe and a loose pair of pants, that after all he had enough energy to recheck the day’s medical logs before getting some shut eye.  Sitting down at the computer console, McCoy keyed on the screen and began to scan the entries.  As he did, he lifted one hand to his neck and began to massage it.  Stress, was right.  He could feel it beneath his fingers, contracting the muscles under his skin.  He paused to roll his head and stretch his neck, and was shocked when, suddenly, other fingers took up where his had left off.

Jumping out of his seat – and nearly out of his skin – Leonard McCoy whirled to find the strange alien woman.  She stepped back and permitted him to assess her.

She was thin.  Very thin.  If she’d turned sideways, you might have lost her.  Her forehead was elongated and slightly bony, like someone with perhaps one-eighth Klingon in them, but he didn’t get a sense that she was Klingon.  The hair that topped her forehead and hung in long straight sheets to her narrow shoulders was white.  Pure white.  Likewise, her skin had very little pigmentation.  In some ways, she reminded him of what had once been called an albino.  But her eyes were gray, not red, and unlike albinos who often paid for their condition with a sort of weakness, he sensed in her a great strength.  The strength of years – if not eons – of maturity and wisdom. 

“You…you’re real,” he stammered.

“Yes,” was all she said.

“How did you get here?  How did you get past the ship’s security?  What do you want?  What do you want with me?

She smiled at his barrage of questions.  “I am.  And, I am not.  Your ship cannot sense what does not exist.”

“Pardon me, ma’am?” he asked, his southern drawl intensifying.  “You said you were real.”

“I was.  I will be.”

McCoy blinked.  He really should alert the captain.

“James Kirk must not know yet,” the woman warned.

“Did you read my mind?”

The smile deepened.  More enigmatic.  “In a way.  But no.”

She seemed to take a perverse pleasure in being obtuse.  “Do you know how to give a straight answer?” he snarled.

“I have.”

McCoy rolled his eyes.  “Why shouldn’t I tell Jim?”

“He would stop you.”

“Stop me from what?”

“You are tied to the time where they are.  You are necessary for its survival, and theirs.”

A shiver ran along McCoy’s spine.  Did she mean Spock and the others?  “Theirs?”

“Your friends.”

“What do you know about that?”  More than ever he thought he should inform the captain.  But something restrained him.  Something in her manner; in what she was.

Whatever that was.

“Your friends have inadvertently become entangled in a war,” she replied.  “It is not a war such as you know.  There are no casualties – and there are billions.”

“I don’t understand.”

“You cannot.  You may not.  That is why your people are dying.”

“What?”  He was growing angry.  “Spock and Uhura….”

“No.  Those in engineering.  You must have someone guard Mr. Scott.  Another attempt will be made.  And there will be others.  Your captain.  Others of this crew who know what must not be known.”  The woman paused and then she looked directly into his eyes.  The action was unbalancing.  You.”

 “Me?  What do I know that I ‘must not’.”

“Psi-2000,” she answered, her voice a harsh whisper, “Gary Seven.  Captain Christopher….  Sector 90.4.”

It took a second.  “Time travel?”  What she implied took his breath.  “A war?  Where people travel through time?”  The implications were staggering; the damage that could be done, incalculable.

“My people have the ability to move through time by thought.  As a people we are dedicated to non-interference.  But there are certain rogue elements.”  Her face showed her disgust.  “They believe, as I think your people say, that the end justifies the means.”

“To get rid of those of us who know time travel is possible, is that what you are saying?”  The woman nodded, but he could tell there was more.  “Does this have to do with whatever Spock and Uhura stumbled into?  With where they have gone?”

“Two hundred and more years into your past.  It is a pivotal moment, doctor.  Time tubes are used to transport soldiers to the surface.  Mercenaries from other planets, beings who are solid matter like you, who cannot move by thought are utilized.”  The alien paused.  “They must be stopped.”

He nodded, and then he realized what she meant.  “What?  By me?  I’m a doctor, not a general….” 

“You are a healer.”

“Yes, but what good would that do?  Sure, I can apply tourniquets and wrap linens as well as the next man, but, stop a war?”

“Do you know where your friends are, doctor?”

“Hell, no!  If I did, I would – ”

“You would what?  You cannot go to them.”  She stepped closer.  “Not without my help, or the help of one of my kind.”

He stared at her hard.  “If you can create another anomaly, then take the ship through….”

“Their agents are already on this ship.  That is why your friends are in danger.”

McCoy moved to his chair and sat down heavily in it.  “All right.  But I asked you before…why me?

She came over and knelt beside him.  The fingers that touched his knee were nearly translucent, as though – like she said – she was there, but not there.  “I ask again, do you know where your friends are?”

He shook his head wearily.  “No.  Will you tell me?”

“The land has many names.  The indigenous people call it ken-tah-ten, or the land of tomorrow.”  She smiled, seeming to deem that appropriate.

Ken-tah-ten.  He’d learned that word at his granddaddy’s knee.  Though Georgia born and bred, the McCoy’s root went back to that place.  The words for it was Iroquoian.

“Kentucky.”

“It’s memory is in your bones.  Once you are there, you will know what to do.”

Leonard McCoy looked at the enigma kneeling beside him.  For a moment, he wondered if time-traveling aliens understood the nature of a pun.  No, he didn’t think they did.

“I should tell the captain,” he protested meekly.

“Then their agents too will know, and your friends will die.”

What would it do to Jim, he wondered, to find that he too was missing?  Oh well, it would be up to Chapel now to deal with the captain’s guilt and elevated blood pressure.

With resignation, he sighed, “When do we go?”

The alien smiled.

Now.”